During Welcome Week at the start of her freshman year, Karen Jones remembers hearing a speaker talk to the eager new Baylor Bears about striving for balance. “They spoke about finding balance in your physical, spiritual, and mental self,” she says. “I have thought back on that many times over the years.” When she’s felt balanced, individual success in both her personal and professional life have followed.
“We all get out of whack sometimes when we aren’t taking care of our health, our spiritual needs, or ourselves in general,” Jones says, “but over the years I have found my version of success both professionally and personally when those are more balanced.”
A certified public accountant and managing partner at boutique firm Meador & Jones, LLP in Austin, Jones graduated from Baylor University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Business Administration with majors in economics and finance. After graduation, Jones continued her education back in her hometown at the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Master of Business Administration.
She and her husband, Gary, another proud Baylor Bear, have been married for more than three decades. The pair grew up together in Austin but didn’t begin dating until their collegiate years. Jones is a proud mom of two daughters – Meagan, 29, and Caroline, 27 – and calls her family and marriage her greatest achievements. “Gary and I have been married thirty-three years, and it gets better each year,” she says. “We have so much fun together.” As for parenting, Jones is exceedingly proud of the independent and empathetic women her daughters have become.
“As a mother of girls, you want them to be independent and be self-sufficient, no matter what they choose for their own lives” she says. “They are both grounded in life and have immense compassion for other people.”
Meagan and Caroline graduated from Texas Christian University, making for a fun – and at times competitive – family rivalry particularly during football season, Jones says. Although the Bears suffered a tough loss during this year’s game against the TCU Horned Frogs, Jones took it in stride. “I am pretty competitive, so I tried to just relax. If I am going to lose to somebody, I guess it is okay to lose to them,” she says.
After nearly three decades of experience in the tax and finance accounting industry, Jones has honed her management and leadership style based in many ways on her deep-seated family values and her early years as a working mom trying to make all the pieces fit.
“I have made it a rule where God is first for me, then my family, and then my career,” she says. “I am not going to work twelve hours a day for six days a week.”
Jones’s approach isn’t just about her own life. She strives to create a workplace for her team that encourages a better work-life balance, providing a space for career growth while maintaining flexibility and understanding. One of the key pieces to Meador & Jones stellar reputation as a firm is a relationship-forward focus with both clients and staff, as well as their lack of a traditional office hierarchy structure.
“We do things a little bit differently here,” Jones says. “We don’t really have a hierarchy. We try to provide a place where each person can develop and contribute, and then go home at the end of the day and be with their family and friends outside the office.”
The importance of this office mindset was cemented in Jones during years of juggling the busy and wonderful days of parenthood while simultaneously pursuing career goals.
“When my two daughters were young, I didn’t have the capacity in my schedule to work a lot of overtime,” Jones says. “Gary is an airline pilot and back then there were many days where it was just me getting the kids to school and working during tax season. Success then was getting everyone home and getting everyone to do their homework. It makes me a better boss now to young parents who have all of that to juggle.”
Working motherhood wasn’t as commonplace then. Jones recalls not having anyone to look to for advice on how to make the push-and-pull of responsibilities come together. “In my life, I didn’t have a role model that I could ask, ‘How do you do this?’ I’d have three events I’d need to attend at school, a class project that needed supplies, and then a busy week at work,” she says. “And the IRS doesn’t care that you have a school play.”
Now, she hopes to help members of her team navigate their versions of that chapter in their lives while providing support.
“I have always told my children and staff that it is going to look different for everyone,” she says. “Everyone is going to have a different path and a different version of success, and that’s okay.”
Her years at Baylor University instilled this understanding. “As I have gotten older, I appreciate even more what the school had to offer and particularly the family feel of it,” Jones recalls.
Relationships and community have been a principal thread woven throughout Karen Jones’s life, from her career and family life to her volunteer work. She is the director of the Baylor Line Foundation and a board member with the Gathering, a nonprofit that supports the mission of Mobile, Loaves, and Fishes at Community First! Village in Austin. The Gathering helps empower the “missionally minded into a lifestyle of following Christ alongside the formerly homeless” through her church, Community First! Village.
“Community is so important,” Jones says. “That sometimes goes away the more technologically we get as a people. When I am at those board meetings, I sometimes feel not even worthy to be sitting there among such amazing people, but it has taught me so much about the importance of community.”
When asked what advice she’d give current Baylor Bears, Jones says, “You get out what you put into it.” If she could go back, she’d also dive in even more to the many resources and groups available to students. “Baylor has so many resources and I would dip my toe in everything I could.”
In her career, family life, and commitment to community, Karen Jones has forged a life rooted in balance, which she’s tended to thoughtfully over the years. Her time at Baylor clearly planted the seed.